P.O. Box 160
2470 Cedar Street
McKenzie, TN 38201
2470 Cedar Street
McKenzie, TN 38201
2470 Cedar Street
McKenzie, TN 38201
103 West Paris Street
Jayma Shomaker of McKenzie's Shomaker Farms is living a dream. Amidst acres and acres of black-fenced pastures, the 37-year-old natural beauty spends her days breeding, raising and riding the farm's 62 American Quarter Horses, many of which are the offspring of the farm's two prized stallions, world champion racer "Shoot Yeah" and the highly pedigreed barrel racer, "Request Tenn Honors".
The daughter of Ronnie and Martha Shomaker, Jayma grew up around horses on the family farm. By age ten she was riding her first barrel horses in competition. After graduating from McKenzie High School in 1992, her love for the animals led her to attend Murray State University where she studied Animal Health Technology. After graduation, the family farm served as a base for plying her trade as well as barrel racing, a sport she enjoyed through 1997, when her work took on a new direction. She started breeding her own mares in 1998 and brought her first stud to the farm in 1999.
"That's all I do is just breed horses, raise babies and try to break them out and ride them, then sell them," Jayma says with a smile. She traveled to Colorado to learn more about equine reproduction, artificial insemination and cooled semen shipping at Colorado State University.
"I always wanted to work with horses, this was just the next avenue - I can't break colts forever," says Jayma. At the suggestion that she is pretty tough to do the work she does, she declares, "Pretty tough or pretty stupid! My body tells me every morning I'm pretty stupid."
Pretty smart is another good description for the woman who has brought the farm into the new millennium with technology that is a tremendous breakthrough for the horse industry. While far from a new technology - the first equine pregnancy from frozen sperm was reported in Guelph, Ontario in 1957 - the American Quarter Horse Association first allowed the shipping of semen around 1997-1998, though Jayma says, "the walking horse people have been doing it for a long time."
It's a business that will cause a cowboy to blush, but Jayma says, "It's just like breathing to me." She carries out the process with casual professionalism and the attention to detail that is necessary in running a successful operation. Behind her office is her laboratory, and off a door on either side of the lab is the station at which the sperm is collected and the stalls where artificial insemination takes place.
Once collected, the semen must be processed immediately. She checks a sample for viability and runs it through a decimeter that counts every particle, letting her know how to "extend" the batch. A good sample shows healthy sperm moving in a forward direction (instead of in circles) with normal conformation rather than the two heads or two tails that is sometimes seen. The decimeter count reveals the number of breedings that can be supported by the collection. "One collection can breed eight to 20 mares," Jayma says, as opposed to only one mare with "live covering."
Based upon the decimeter count, a proportion of "extender" is added to the product. The extender is a milk-based, protein and energy-rich substance combined with an antibiotic that supports the sperm cells. When the collection is to be transported, the semen is placed immediately into a shipping container with a "cooling can".
The cooled semen has a short shelf life as compared to frozen semen which may be stored indefinitely, although AQHA regulations limit insemination from frozen sperm to December 31 on the year the stallion dies.
Artificial insemination has revolutionized the breeding industry, cutting costs while making bloodlines easily accessible across the nation and the world. Previously, with the mare being shipped to the stallion's location, along with the stress and liability of the trip, additional costs were incurred in "mare care" - boarding, veterinarian bills and the like.
While Jayma has shipped cooled semen all over the United States and into Canada, she also uses artificial insemination exclusively on her own turf. More economical and less stressful than traditional breeding, Jayma acknowledges "there's risk every time you mess with a stud."
Jayma handles the stud, leading him into the barn where he is "teased" by a waiting mare, then mounts a dummy horse constructed from a water heater covered with foam and duct tape. Jayma's assistant, Carlos Martinez of Trezevant, collects the sample.
After processing in the lab, the sample is injected through a hand-guided tube into one or more mares. The success of the venture is evident in the new foals that are appearing as pretty as new flowers across the landscape of Shomaker Farms.
"We've had six so far this year with eight to go," says Jayma. With broodmares sporting bloodlines like Doc Bar, Doc O'Lena, Jet Deck, Mr. Hay Bug, Tonto Bars Hank, Bold Ruler, Easy Jet, Moon Deck, Go Man Go, Lad's Magnolia, Jet of Honor, Leo, Pie in the Sky, Casady Casanova, and Jet's Pay Day, Jayma's yearlings start at $2,000 with two-year olds bringing between $2,500 and $10,000.
Jayma believes a horse's quality is determined "on the dam (mother) side. If she is a producer of horses that have done something on the track or barrel pen, her babies are more likely to be winners. On the breeding cross, I personally believe it's 80% mare, 20% stud as far as ability is concerned. If you breed to a dink mare, you might just have a dink colt that's out of a good daddy. That's just my opinion, other people might not agree."
It's a theory that would be hard to prove on the Shomaker Farm, where all the mares are bred to either 17-year old racer Shoot Yeah or six-year old barrel-racer Request Tenn Honors.
Shoot Yeah is a world champion, earning $304,143 in his racing career as a two-year old and early three-year old. He was the fastest qualifier and winner of the Sun Country Futurity and winner of the Kansas Futurity. He was the fastest qualifier in the 1987 All American Futurity. He has sired 127 winners, 14 Stakes winners, 146 Roms, and 5 superior racehorses for total earnings of over $1.8 million. Request Tenn Honors is a barrel racer with a winning bloodline over several generations.
Jayma plans on branching out the services offered by Shomaker Farms to include inseminating mares from other owners onsite, as well as standing stud at the farm for other stallion owners who may cater to mares on site or have semen shipped to other locales.
She is currently standing Ron Hornbech's cutting horse stallion, Lil Bit 'o Hickory. From Dickson, Tennessee, Hornbech was able to avail himself of the facilities offered at Shomaker farms that are not available at many farms.
"I'd like to stand more studs for other people; do more for the outside public I guess you might say," Jayma says, considering the future.
Work takes up most of her time, but she's not complaining. "I do this seven days a week," she says, "When I have time I like to go to horse shows but right now we're just too busy." Luckily, Jimmy Allen of McKenzie is on hand at the farm to help take care of the horses and keep the fences in good repair.
Jayma admits to sneaking out to the pond to fish when days are nice, and spends a good bit of time with her two Jack Russell terriers, Maggie and Curly Sue and Legend, one of the biggest rotweillers around, plus a myriad of cats that mosey in and out of the office.
Living a dream and loving it, Jayma knows she is one lucky gal, and with hard work and ambition her constant companions, it's likely the best is yet to be. Happy to be walking in her own shoes, Jayma is thankful for her many blessings. Shoot yeah, she's honored.